A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

Education

Still going on going

The question that anyone coming to this blog is bound to ask is: What’s so fascinating about Marshall McLuhan?  Why are his ideas still worth thinking about today, so long after his two big books – The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media – came out in the 1960s ?  For me the hook isn’t the big statements that admittedly still resonate in our digital age “the medium is the message’ or “the global village,” or “pattern recognition;”  it’s the small, seemingly inconsequential observations he came out with that force you to think freshly about the world.  A case in point, in the interview I posted yesterday Marshall McLuhan asserts that children pay close attention to ads on TV because the’re better made than the shows.  Stunningly fascinating.  Here for example is one of those ads children were watching in the 1960s.

And if they’re paying close attention to it, you’ve got to ask yourself, “What are they learning from it?”  And “Who aren’t they paying attention to and learning from?”  In other words, what you learn most from McLuhan is what he pushes you to teach yourself.

Cordially, Marshall and me

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, 1970s and 80s, Culture, Education 1 Comment

Hello I must begin my going

As the end of this blog and McLuhan’s 100th birthday on July 21 draws near I should try to sum things up, to make clear what it is I have been trying to do, and where  I think I have succeeded and where I have not.  But as the mosquito said on entering the nudist colony – a joke Marshall McLuhan liked to tell – “I don’t know where to begin.”  So let me begin on the beginning of the end with something that may or may not be appropriate, an interview of McLuhan on Australian television recorded on June 19, 1977 when Mcluhan was 66.  Here he is shifting from idea to idea, throwing out an idea and then moving on much as this bog has done. And as I am now doing. 

Tomorrow I will pick up where I have left off.

Cordially, Marshall and me   

 

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Education No Comments

Whose hand is on the scalpel?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The involvement of TV.      

“In closed-circuit instruction in surgery, medical students from the first reported a strange effect – that they seemed not to be watching an operation but performing it.  They felt they were holding the scalpel.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  What does McLuhan infer from this?

Hold onto your scalpel: Because TV creates “a passion for depth involvement in every aspect of human experience”  it naturally “creates an obsession with bodily welfare.”  Ergo:  “the sudden emergence of the TV medico and the hospital ward as a program.”  A trend that continues today with House and Nurse Jackie, not to mention the scalpel-detective crossover shows CSI, NCIS et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.      

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 328.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 10th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Education No Comments

You’ve got to suffer if you want to be a senior executive.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  He only gets the noise!

“Electricity  … has made the harmonizing of production schedules as rigorous as that demanded of the members of a large symphony orchestra.  And the satisfactions are just as few for the big executives as for the symphonists, since a player in a big orchestra can hear nothing of the music that reaches the audience.  He gets only the noise.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Do you have an ear for Management?

Only McLuhan with his preternatural sensitivity to noise could take the idea of a business executive being like a player in a symphony orchestra and turn it into a nightmare.   Despite what you thought the problem with being a senior executives isn’t that  you’re lonely at the top it’s that you can’t get a moment to yourself.  If you think about it that’s what Dr. Henry Mintzberg has been saying years about the Manager’s job, it’s chaos.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 355.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Education, Management No Comments

The new learning

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Pattern recognition.      

“Today, again, after a period of classified consumption, learning in a comprehensive world is becoming play, pattern recognition, discovery.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What do you do when you hit play? 

Learn of course.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Education No Comments

Why read McLuhan?

Marshall McLuhan (January 4, 1964, age 52).  The McLuhans at the breakfast table.

“Marshall, listen to what Tom Easterbrook has to say about you in the Weekend Magazine.”

“And what is that?”

“He,” that’s you, “churns up the atmosphere.  I think he’s aware of doing it, but he does it for shock effect.  He goes at his adversaries until they become numb.  But he has zest – he’s full of fun.  He conveys a marvelous feeling of being alive.”

“What do you think?”

“Dear old Tom.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Being alive.

Tom Easterbrook was McLuhan’s oldest friend and a colleague at the University of Toronto.  As Easterbrook suggests for McLuhan the important thing was to shock people into thinking.  If you worry too much about whether McLuhan is right or wrong you will get very little out of reading him.  Slow down and enjoy the rush of life.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education No Comments

What is truth?

Marshall McLuhan (March 25, 1974, age 63).  Good old Agatha Christie!    

“Was it Hercule Poirot who, when asked ‘what is truth?’ replied: ‘Eet ees whatever upsets zee applecart?” 

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Perhaps it’s time to upset some apple carts? 

Why not?  You have nothing to fear but the apples.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 492.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 249-50

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What is your task?

Marshall McLuhan (April 12, 1936, age 24).  My task?

“My task as a teacher will be to shake others from their complacency.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  But how?

As Marshall showed throughout his career the most effective method was a form of intellectual shock therapy.  To assert that the world was not as it appeared to be in the electronic age.  Cause did not precede effect it followed it.  Consumers were becoming producers.  Advertising was a substitute for consumption.  Print created history.  The medium is the message.   Impossible?   Far from itl.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 84.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Education No Comments

TV kids and rock-and-roll.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  They go together like horse and carriage!    

“It is not strange that the young should respond untaught to rock-and-roll as an interpretation of their world of accelerated stress and change.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Untaught?

Yes and no.  What about the classrooms without walls of movies, TV, and ads?  But of course that is what Marshall must have meant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41lign3VBZo

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Education No Comments

The new threat?

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  The new.    

“As the most completely book-minded people in the world, North Americans would seem to be moving into new orbits of experience for which their bookishness has not entirely prepared them.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  What is to be done?

Continue to explore.  To discover how media as media work.  Bring understanding to the rescue.  That I imagine is what Marshall would do.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 99.

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